What Is Maple Syrup?
Whether it’s the full, rounded sweetness, the alluring colour, or the unmistakable woody flavour, there’s just something special about maple syrup. One of the world’s favourite natural sweeteners, maple syrup is originally made from sap tapped from certain species of maple trees in eastern Canada, as well as parts of the northeastern United States.
The clear, liquid sap is then boiled and reduced down to a lovely, amber syrup, and classified (or graded) according to colour and flavour. The classic usage of maple syrup is to drizzle it, generously, on top of pancakes or waffles for an instantly luxurious brunch, but it can also play a starring role in savoury dishes, especially as a glaze for oven-baked meat or vegetable dishes. We’ll be taking a look at the health benefits of maple syrup here, but there are plenty more fascinating facts to be found in this A-Z list, if you’re curious.
Maple syrup extract enhances antibiotic action
Not only is maple syrup a surprisingly versatile ingredient in the kitchen, it also has several other useful and highly beneficial properties. For example, First Nations communities in Canada have for centuries used maple syrup to ward off infections, and recent scientific research has confirmed what these communities have long since known. A study led by a research team at Montreal’s McGill University found that the addition of a maple syrup extract dramatically increased the effectiveness of antibiotics. In other words, the research found that much less antibiotics were required to achieve the desired effect when the maple syrup extract was added – in some cases up to 90% less antibiotics. This is a significant finding, since overuse of antibiotics carries the risk that bacteria will become resistant, and a lower dosage can decrease this risk considerably.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Maple Syrup
Another health benefit offered by maple syrup comes from a specific type of molecule, known as quebecol, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Since inflammation can refer to just about any type of swelling and pain, maple syrup could potentially help with any number of ailments, including arthritic pain, cramps, headaches or even gum infections. And, once again, the science is there to back it up. Also, if you’re wondering, yes: quebecol is named after the Canadian province of Quebec. The molecule was first isolated from Canadian maple syrup, and since Quebec produces over 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup, picking a name for this helpful molecule was a fairly straightforward task.
Maple Syrup Scores Low on the Glycemic Index
Since it’s quite sweet and flavourful, you often don’t need very much maple syrup to deliver the sweetness and robust taste that your breakfast, entree or dessert might need. That’s just as well, since – like many syrups – maple syrup is quite high in sugar content, coming in at about 2/3 sucrose. In other words, for every spoonful of maple syrup you enjoy, you are eating two-thirds of its weight in pure table sugar. That said, maple syrup has a glycemic index lower than that of table sugar. Whereas table sugar has a glycemic index of 65, maple syrup’s is around 54. This means that the body’s blood sugar levels increase at a slower rate when you eat maple syrup as compared to regular sugar.
It Contains Numerous Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds present primarily in the foods we eat that help slow down the processes of oxidative damage, which can cause inflammation or, put simply, physical aging. Antioxidants may also help lower the risk of acquiring certain chronic diseases. While other sweet substances like refined sugar and corn syrup have little to no antioxidant compounds, maple syrup (along with other natural sweeteners like blackstrap molasses) have a remarkably high level. A medical study even found that maple syrup has up to 24 antioxidants, with the darker grades of syrup providing the most. The antioxidants don’t necessarily balance out maple syrup’s high sugar content, but it can certainly provide extra benefits that regular refined sugar lacks.
It Supplies Important Vitamins and Minerals
Besides antioxidants, maple syrup also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium and iron, along with especially high concentrations of zinc and manganese. An 80 mL serving of maple syrup contains 28% of the recommended daily intake of zinc and a whopping 165% of the recommended daily intake of manganese. So what is manganese good for? Well, manganese is found in some of the most important antioxidants in the body, and has proven anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps the body metabolise and efficiently absorb other vitamins and nutrients. Research has also linked manganese to lower incidences of epileptic seizures, improved thyroid health, and increased collagen production to help in the healing of wounds.
Maple Cream and Maple Water
Two products that are closely related to maple syrup, and are just about as delicious are maple cream and maple water. Both of them also provide the same health benefits as maple syrup does. Despite its slightly misleading name, maple cream actually has no added fat or milk, it is simply maple syrup that is heated to a boil and then immediately cooled to just above freezing, while preventing the sugar from crystallising. The result is an opaque paste, with a creamy spreadable texture, making it a perfect addition to toast or croissants. And since there is nothing added to the maple syrup in the processing of making maple cream, it boasts the very same nutritional qualities, including high content of mineral salts, potassium, magnesium and manganese.
Maple water, meanwhile, is simply the liquid maple sap taken directly from the tree before it is boiled down to produce maple syrup. Its maple flavour is thus quite a bit softer despite its natural sweetness, but maple water still has less than half the sugar of coconut water, which partly explains why it has achieved superfood status among discerning foodies. Much like maple syrup, maple water is rich in calcium and manganese, helping with nutrient absorption and bone development.